Pa. coronavirus recovery: Weekly recycling pickup resumes in Philadelphia

Recycling bins on Cuthbert Street in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Recycling bins on Cuthbert Street in Philadelphia. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Updated at 4:35 p.m.

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On Monday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 90,304 coronavirus cases since the coronavirus pandemic began, and 6,754 deaths.

As of Monday, Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health has reported 26,810 cases and 1,617 deaths.

Weekly recycling pickup resumes in Philadelphia

Starting Monday, Philadelphia will again collect recycling from each home every week.

The city had been collecting recycling once every two weeks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Garbage and recycling collectors have staged several protests over the last month, claiming that the city’s Streets Department hasn’t given them sufficient protective equipment.

The ramp-up in collection activity comes as Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 hotspot moves westward. While Pittsburgh and its suburbs have seen a spike in new cases, Philadelphia’s daily totals are relatively low.

The city announced 274 new cases on Monday, a total that reflects the last three days of test results. Philadelphia also recorded one more death over the holiday weekend.

Overall, 26,810 Philadelphians have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the outbreak began.

Philly opens second wave of rental assistance money

Philadelphia will offer a second round of rent relief to as many as 6,300 city residents, with applications going live Monday at 2 p.m.

The first wave of rental assistance reached more than 4,000 residents, the city said.

This latest $28 million dollars in aid comes through the federal CARES Act, and will be distributed through September 30 or whenever the last dollar is claimed.

To be eligible, renters must make under a certain amount annually and have lost 30% or more of their income due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Additional aid to child care sector

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Monday that the state’s child care industry will receive an additional $169 million dollars of federal financial subsidies over the next few months.

“This funding will help child care providers bridge the gap until their clientele returns,” Wolf said in a statement. “It will also help them with any increased costs that have been incurred due to the pandemic.”

$53 million will come from funding provided by the Federal CARES act designated for child care, and will be distributed later this month. The remaining $116 million comes from Pennsylvania’s portion of federal stimulus money provided directly to the states. It will be distributed “in the coming months,” according to a press release.

Pennsylvania’s child care providers already received $51 million of federal stimulus last month. Despite that, at least 65 of the state’s roughly 7,000 child care providers have already announced they have closed permanently due to the pandemic.

Industry advocates say they are happy about the aid, but that it is not nearly enough.

“Programs that are operating are not doing so at full capacity and programs have added costs as a result of their additional PPE/sanitization and/or staffing needs,” said Jen DeBell, executive director of Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children, in an email. “This is why we are calling on our congressional delegation to include significant dedicated funding for child care in their next stimulus bill.”

The city said money will be distributed on a “first-come, first-served basis,” with each household receiving no more than $750 a month.

WHYY’s Miles Bryan contributed reporting.

Pa. unemployment claim numbers are rising again

Unemployment benefits applications numbers are creeping up again in Pennsylvania, as the pandemic recovery wobbles.

“In the past few weeks there has been an uptick,” said Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Jerry Oleksiak. The week ending June 13 had the smallest number of new claims since the pandemic started, with 43,874 first-time applications filed. Since then, each week has had more than 51,000 new applications.

“The primary industry that we’re seeing impacted is the hospitality/leisure industry,” said Oleksiak. Based on the most recent number of new claims by industry available, hospitality was third in terms of new applications, but first in continuing claims, one measure of how many people are actively receiving unemployment benefits. Since May 2019, the hospitality and leisure industry has lost 52.1% of its jobs, according to a department spokesperson.

Since the start of the pandemic, the food service industry, such as bars and restaurants, has hemorrhaged jobs. Unsteady progress towards controlling the virus led several parts of the commonwealth to step back from reopening plans in recent weeks.

Allegheny County officials announced that starting July 3, they would shut down bars, restaurants and casinos for a week, amid a spike in new cases. Philadelphia officials also walked away from plans to reopen restaurant dining rooms at reduced capacity.

Department of Labor and Industry officials did not immediately share how many of the new applications came from restaurant workers.

Since April, unemployment in the commonwealth has been at a record high. Officials shared that with the start of July, the state entered a new benefits quarter, changing the look-back period the department uses to calculate how much unemployment someone is eligible to receive.

“Now that we’re in a new quarter, that means that individuals who previously may not have qualified for unemployment compensation … they may qualify now,” said Susan Dickinson, director of the Office of Unemployment Compensation Benefits Policy. People receiving assistance through programs other than traditional unemployment, such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance — a new program for gig workers, part-timers and other more irregular workers — may have their benefits “held temporarily” while the department investigates whether they qualify for traditional unemployment instead.

However, some applicants may currently be receiving an erroneous denial message. Dickinson said that’s because of a technical error with the vendor’s software.

“The message that people are getting is actually the message that other states who use the products of this vendor have turned on for their state,” she said. “So that’s being turned off.”

WHYY’s Laura Benshoff and WESA’s Margaret Krauss contributed reporting.

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Zoo reopens

Philadelphia’s slow reopening process continues this week, with some outdoor activities now open to the public.

The Philadelphia Zoo opened to members on Monday, and the general public will be allowed to return on July 9. Philadelphia’s city government, meanwhile, reopened 91 “spraygrounds,” although public pools will remain closed for the rest of the season.

Across Pennsylvania, coronavirus case counts ticked upward last week — but hospitalizations continue to fall.

450 new cases in Pa.

Pennsylvania officials reported 450 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Monday. That’s more than one hundred fewer new cases than the state logged exactly a week ago (587).

Of those 450 cases, 218 came from Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh and its suburbs. Pennsylvania’s second-largest county moved into the “green” phase of reopening in early June, but local officials have since barred indoor dining and some other activities as cases rise in the western part of the state.

“As the entire state is now in the green phase, we must remain committed to protecting against COVID-19 by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and avoiding large gatherings,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine in a statement.

Statewide, there 598 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. That number has steadily declined over the past month.

Pennsylvania also announced one more death attributed to COVID-19 on Monday.

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